Doodles in the margin from an artist living and working in the Scottish Borders.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Music on Monday: That's Some Bad-Ass Farmer.

Bo Diddley was, in his time, a Lover, a Gunslinger and a Lumberjack, but also, and less snappily, a Pioneer in the Integration of Race and Gender in a Musical Environment.

Bass player Debby Hastings led his band for twenty-five years, and when Bo was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, it was with Hastings alongside him. Before that there was Cornelia 'Cookie' Redmond, a backing singer small in stature but big in personality who became an integral part of his on-stage show, including a snazzy line in repartee.

"Bo," Cookie would say, "you look like a million dollars."
"I do?"
"Yeah, you look like something I've never seen before."

Peggy Jones, 'Lady Bo', was a fantastic guitarist and singer who was an integral part of Bo Diddley's band and sound between 1956 and 1962. She taught herself Diddley's unusual tunings and style, and to list her work is to list some of his biggest hits - Say Man, The Story of Bo Diddley, Mona, Hey Bo Diddley, Crackin' Up, Aztec, Roadrunner. None of them would have sounded quite as they did without Lady Bo.

When Jones left the band, audiences missed "the girl" and so Norma-Jean Wofford stepped into her dizzying high heels. Also known as 'the Duchess', she was mentioned in the Animals' The Story of Bo Diddley as "his gorgeous sister." (I was going to say she was 'immortalised' by the song, but it's not like she was sitting quietly counting on a bunch of herberts from Tyneside to get her noticed.) The 'sister' thing was just a line Diddley put around; "we did everything together. She was like family, which was why I told everyone she was my sister." Another reason Diddley gave for this was that "it put me in a better position to protect her out on the road." The favour ran both ways; it was the Duchess who Diddley trusted to look after his money. (He could have done with her in the early 1970s, when he signed away all his copyrights with Chess, a decision that literally cost him dearly the rest of his career.)

And here she is, wearing a characteristically understated outfit and standing shoulder to shoulder with the great Bo Diddley in guitar-slinging bad-assery.

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